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UM Plagiarism Guide

This guide will help you avoid plagiarism by providing examples that explain how to properly incorporate information from outside sources into your own scholarly work.  It is not enough to mention a source in a bibliography; you must cite an outside source within your text in a specific way in order for the use of that source not to be considered plagiarism. Your style guide (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, etc.) will describe precisely how to cite your sources. If you are not sure which style guide to use, ask your professor.

As you make your way through this plagiarism guide, there will be two quizzes that help you understand the difference between an acceptable use of a source and plagiarism. These quizzes are there to help you learn - there is no penalty for guessing incorrectly!  After you have answered each question, you will see an explanation as to why the example is or is not plagiarism.

The "Implications of Plagiarism at UM" page contains an excerpt from The Fledgling that details what is considered plagiarism at the University of Montevallo, as well as what potential consequences students may face.

The "Resources" page contains links to other online guides about plagiarism, eBooks accessible via Carmichael Library's website, as well as suggestions on note-taking to keep yourself organized and track your sources.

When you have completed the tutorial, you can Test Your Knowledge to see what you learned.

**This guide was adapted from the University of Southern Mississippi's Plagiarism Tutorial, which itself was adapted from Robert A. Harris's book The Plagiarism Handbook : Strategies for Preventing, Detecting, and Dealing with Plagiarism and Tom Fox, Julia Johns and Sarah Keller's  Cite It Right: The SourceAid Guide to Citation, Research, and Avoiding Plagiarism.  Both USM's tutorial and this UM plagiarism guide are licensed under CC-BY-SA.

Plagiarism is the act of taking another person's writing, conversation, song, or even idea and passing it off as your own. This includes information from web pages, books, songs, television shows, email messages, interviews, articles, artworks or any other medium. When you hear about famous scholars getting in trouble for plagiarism, it usually means they copied exact sentences or almost-exact sentences and phrases from someone else and did not include a footnote or quotation marks or any kind of indication that the words were not their own. In college, this is also the case, but there are other ways to commit plagiarism besides copying someone else's work.  It is also considered plagiarism when students turn in papers that they obtained by purchase, hire, or any other method outside of composing the work themselves. 

The main point is that when you incorporate anyone else's words or ideas into your own work, you simply need to give them credit and provide your audience with information on how to find the original source.  Whenever you paraphrase, summarize, or take words, phrases, or sentences from another person's work, it is necessary to indicate the source of the information within your paper, presentation, speech, etc. It is not enough to just list the source in a bibliography at the end of your paper. Failing to properly quote, cite or acknowledge someone else's words or ideas is plagiarism.

What if the Information is something everybody knows?

There are instances when credit is not necessary. If you include information that is generally considered common knowledge, you do not need to cite a source. The common knowledge exception usually includes things like dates, facts, names, and other information easily found in general reference books. For example, the United States was founded in 1776, has 50 states, and sent astronauts to the moon in 1969. Common knowledge exceptions may also apply within a particular group and therefore depends on the expected audience of readers. When in doubt, go ahead and cite the information.

Is it possible to plagiarize yourself?

Yes! Copying and pasting or rewriting the same text from one of your papers to another is still considered plagiarism. You may quote or paraphrase yourself according to the same guidelines as using the work of another author.


The videos below give you an overview of what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, as well as information on the specifics of different types of plagiarism.

Cite Your Sources

To avoid plagiarism, always inform your audience of any ideas or words that are not your own. Seems simple, right? But there are discipline-specific systems in place that provide "rules of the road" for citing your sources. Different style guides (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, etc.) explain how to cite your sources in that                            particular system. MLA style is usually used for English and literature, APA for the social sciences, and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) for historical research. (Turabian is a modification of CMS aimed at college students.) There are many more styles out there, such as CSE (Council of Science Editors) for the sciences, ASA (American Sociological Association) used by sociologists and other affiliated disciplines and many more. If you are not sure which style to use, ask your professor.

Internal Citations

An internal, in-text, or parenthetical citation refers to the practice of giving credit to an author, singer, or speaker by citing their words/ideas within the text of your paper. This internal citation is then referenced in a list similar to a bibliography, but called something else. For example, MLA style calls this list a Works Cited page and APA calls it References.

Internal citations are sometimes referred to as parenthetical citations because they’re enclosed by parentheses. For example, you may read an article where every other sentence seems to have something like (Armstrong 11) at the end.  The writer of the article is telling you, the reader, the name of the person responsible for the information in the preceding sentence and on what page of the author's work this information is located. In this example of MLA style, the author is Armstrong and the page number is eleven. The reader will find the full title of the work on the Works Cited page if he or she wants to track down the original article, book, interview, song, etc. by Armstrong.

Another way to formulate an internal citation is to mention the name of the author in the sentence itself. In MLA style, the page number would be in the parenthesis at the end of the sentence without the name. So you might write a sentence like, As Armstrong explains in his chapter on bullying, some school programs work better than others (11).

Borrowing a work's structure, format or style, or unique phrasing without giving credit is also considered plagiarism. It is important to remember that merely changing the wording is not enough. The "summarizing and paraphrasing" section of this tutorial will elaborate on how to avoid plagiarism when not using direct quotes.

The Works Cited Page

The list of sources at the end of your paper may have different names depending on the style guide you use. You may be familiar with the term bibliography. A paper in MLA style will need a Works Cited page. Research papers in APA style require a list called References. Check your style guide and the help resources for more information.

Regardless of what the list is called, the entries include all of the works (books, articles, Internet sites, etc.) you’ve quoted, paraphrased or otherwise used to create your paper. Let's look at a Works Cited page in MLA style as an example. Each entry is listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. This way, readers may learn where you found the information. For example, if you quoted a line from a novel called Buffalo Hill by James Baxter, then the citation information (author, title of work, publication information, year, etc.) about Buffalo Hill will be listed in your Works Cited page under Baxter, James.  

The format of each entry here is in MLA style. Notice that citations for different types of publications have different "rules of the road" for how they are structured. Journal articles, books, magazine articles, interviews, websites, and various other publications all have specific citation structures. Lillian Johnson's article is from issue number 5 of volume 41 of the Journal of Literature. Christine Parson's article is from a magazine, not a journal, so the citation is structured in a different way.

                                                        Works Cited

     Armstrong, Jack. “Never Let Me Down.” Journal of Important Topics 15.3 

          (2008): 9-12. Print.
     Baxter, James. Buffalo Hill. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.

     Johnson, Lillian. “Delicate Balance: The Prose Works of Jeremiah Wayne.”  

          Journal of Literature 41.5 (2010): 143-155. Print.

     Miller, Christopher. "The Evolution of Waynesian Aesthetics." Literary Journal

          73.8 (2013): 37-59. JSTOR. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

     Parsons, Christine. "Jeremiah Wayne Breaks Free." New Yorker 15 Dec.

          2014: 22-35. Print.

How to Avoid Plagiarism: Quoting

Quoting involves using exact words, phrases and sentences from a source, setting them off with quotation marks, and citing where the information was taken from.

Below is a passage taken from Leslie Berestein's article "Healthy or Not, the Hookah Habit is Hot," which appeared in the Janurary 27, 2003 issue of Time magazine, volume 161, issue 4.

 For centuries, men in the Middle East have gathered around hookahs to puff fruit-scented smoke, talk and pass the time. In the West, however, the water pipe became synonymous with drug culture in the 1960s, an association that lingers. But in the past couple of years, the hookah has been resurrected in youth-oriented coffeehouses, restaurants and bars, supplanting the cigar as the tobacco fad of the moment.



Men in the Mid East have used hookahs to puff smoke for centuries. The "hookah" has been resurrected today in coffeehouses, restaurants and bars "supplanting the cigar as the tobacco fad of the moment."

Is it Plagiarism?

Notice the writer of this passage liberally borrows words, phrases and parts of sentences from the Berestein passage (even quoting parts) but gives no indication of where the information came from. Even if the Berestein book is cited at the end of the paper in the works cited page, there is no indication that this particular passage came from the book. This information has been stolen or plagiarized from Berestein.



According to Leslie Berestein (2003), the Middle Eastern water pipe known as the hookah recently "has been resurrected in youth-oriented coffeehouses, restaurants and bars, supplanting the cigar as the tobacco fad of the moment" (p. 10).

Is it Plagiarism?


The writer uses American Psychological Association (APA) style to cite the author Berestein by introducing the quotation with the phrase "According to Berestein." The (10) at the end of the quoted passage indicates the page number from which the quote was taken in the Berestein book. A reference list at the end of your paper would list the complete citation for the Berestein book.




 The Middle Eastern water pipe known as the hookah has recently "been resurrected in youth-oriented coffeehouses, restaurants and bars, supplanting the cigar as the tobacco fad of the moment" (Berestein 10).

Is it Plagiarism?

In this example, the writer cites the source using the Modern Language Associaton (MLA) style, with the author's name and page number cited at the end of the quote.



 The Middle Eastern water pipe known as the hookah recently "has been resurrected in youth-oriented coffeehouses, restaurants and bars, supplanting the cigar as the tobacco fad of the moment."1

Is it Plagiarism?

Here, the writer uses Turabian style to reference the author, by marking the cited source with a footnote/endnote number. A footnote or endnote will appear later in the paper (either at the bottom of the page or the end of the paper) containing the complete citation for the author, including the page number.


Notice that in each of these examples, the writer quotes Berestein's words exactly as it was given within the sentence. Whenever you quote someone else's words, you have to write them exactly as they originally appear.

How to Avoid Plagiarism: Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Paraphrasing and summarizing are very similar. Both involve taking ideas, words or phrases from a source and crafting them into new sentences within your writing. In addition, summarizing includes condensing the source material into just a few lines. Whether paraphrasing or summarizing, credit is always given to the author.

Below is a passage taken from Raymond S. Nickerson's "How We Know-and Sometimes Misjudge-What Others Know: Imputing One's Own Knowledge to Others." Psychological Bulletin 125.6 (1999): p737.

In order to communicate effectively with other people, one must have a reasonably accurate idea of what they do and do not know that is pertinent to the communication. Treating people as though they have knowledge that they do not have can result in miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment. On the other hand, a fundamental rule of conversation, at least according to a Gricean view, is that one generally does not convey to others information that one can assume they already have.



 For effective communication, it is necessary to have a fairly accurate idea of what our listeners know or do not know that is pertinent to the communication. If we assume that people know something they do not, then miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment may result (Nickerson, 1999).

Yes, this plagiarism. This is an example of an attempt to paraphrase that uses many of the exact words and phrases. Direct quotes need quoatation marks.

This may seem like an acceptable paraphrase of the original work. After all, the author's name and a year is included in parenthesis. But the writer has used too many of Nickerson's original words and phrases such as "effective communication," "accurate idea," "know or do not know," "pertinent," "miscommunication," and "embarrassment." Note that the passage doesn't have an opening tag to indicate where use of the Nickerson's material begins. A citation at the end of a paragraph is not sufficent to indicate what is being credited to Nickerson.


 Proper Paraphrase:

Nickerson (1999) suggests that effective communication depends on a generally accurate knowledge of what the audience knows. If a speaker assumes too much knowledge about the subject, the audience will either misunderstand or be bewildered; however, assuming too little knowledge among those in the audience may cause them to feel patronized (p.737).

Here the writer re-words Nickerson's idea about what determines effective communication. The writer re-phrases "generally accurate knowledge" into "reasonably accurate idea." In the second sentence, the writer re-words Nickerson's ideas about miscommunication and embarrassment using instead the words "misunderstand," "bewildered," and "patronized." Nickerson is given credit from the beginning as the originator of the ideas. This is an example of a successful paraphrase because the writer understands the ideas espoused by Nickerson, and is able to put them into her own words while being careful to give him credit.


 Proper Summary:

Nickerson (1999) argues that clear communication hinges upon what an audience does and does not know. It is crucial to assume the audience has neither too much nor too little knowledge of the subject, or the communication may be inhibited by either confusion or offense (p. 737).

Notice that the writer both paraphrases Nickerson's ideas about effective communication and compresses them into two sentences. Like paraphrasing, summarizing passages is a tricky endeavor and takes lots of practice. If you're ever in doubt about whether your summary or paraphrase might be accidental plagiarism, ask your teacher.

The following excerpt from pages 42-43 of the University of Montevallo's Student Handbook, The Fledgling,  describes what is considered to be plagiarism at UM as well as the possible penalties students may face for committing plagiarism.  A more detailed explanation, including the process for resolving plagiarism charges, can be viewed in the full Academic Dishonesty Policy (found in the "Other Academic Policies" section of the Undergraduate Bulletin as well as in the Academic Resources section of The Fledgling).


Academic Dishonesty

A student at the University of Montevallo upholds the honor of the University by refraining from every form of dishonesty in college life and by doing all that is possible to create a spirit of honesty and honor on the campus.

Academic dishonesty is defined as cheating or plagiarism. Cheating is the giving or receiving of aid, whether written, oral or otherwise, in order for a student to receive undeserved credit on work that is his or her responsibility. Plagiarism occurs when a student uses the words or the ideas of another without acknowledging that they belong to someone else.

Briefly, there are five ways in which a student can commit plagiarism:

• Using the exact words of another person’s work/writing without acknowledgement of the source through the use of quotation marks and correct citation/documentation;
• Rephrasing a passage by another writer without giving proper credit;
• Using someone else’s facts or ideas without acknowledgement;
• Using a piece of writing for one course that was already used in a previous course (or in courses in which one is simultaneously enrolled) without express permission from both instructors to do so; and
• Presenting fabricated or falsified citations or materials.

Helpful Resources

There are many resources available at the University of Montevallo to help students understand how to avoid plagiarism. The Harbert Writing Center, the library and instructors are just a few of these resources. It is the student’s responsibility to ask questions and get assistance with the correct methods of citation and documentation of researched materials so that he or she will not be committing plagiarism.

Academic Dishonesty Policy

Students may not give or receive unauthorized aid in completing academic work and meeting academic requirements. Only the faculty member teaching the course can authorize assistance, use of resources, etc. If a student is uncertain about whether conduct would constitute academic dishonesty, it is the responsibility of the student to seek clarification from the faculty member prior to engaging in such conduct.

Penalties for cheating or plagiarism are determined based on the seriousness of the offense and on whether the student has a record of other instances of academic dishonesty. If the academic dishonesty pertains to an assignment in a course, the faculty member teaching the course in which the violation occurred may assign a zero on the assignment or a grade of “F” in the course. If the violation pertains to a non-course degree requirement (e.g., standardized examination), the student may fail to receive credit for the degree requirement for which the violation occurred. The consequences for the violation of a non-course degree requirement may be imposed by the appropriate department chair or college dean. In addition to these consequences, the faculty member or academic administrator has the right to refer the violation to the University Conduct Council for possible further sanctions.


University of Montevallo Student Handbook

The University of Montevallo's Student Handbook, The Fledgling, includes a section on plagiarism.  A sizable                            excerpt from this section can be found on the "Implications of Plagiarism at UM" tab of this guide, but for more information, including the process for resolving charges of academic dishonesty, consult either The Fledgling or the "Other Academic Policies" section of the Undergraduate Bulletin.  Please remember that there are many campus resources available to help you understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it - the Harbert Writing Center, the librarians, and your professors are all good places to start if you have questions.  If you are not sure about something, please seek help rather than risking a failing grade or even steeper penalties for plagiarizing.


Below are links to some other helpful online guides about understanding and avoiding plagiarism, as well as some eBooks about plagiarism accessible through Carmichael Library.

Suggestions for Note-taking

(taken from Fairfield University's Dimenna Nyselius Library "Note Taking Tips "):

  • Write down the citation of your sources. For each source you use, keep track of the bibliographic data--for a journal article, it's the author, article title, journal title, volume and page numbers. For a book, it's the author, title, publication place and date. For an Internet site, it's the author, the title of the web page (if any), the sponsoring organization, the web site address, the date it was last updated, and the date you last looked at it. One handy tip: once you've printed out the article or web site, or copied part of the book, write the complete citation (author, title, etc.) directly on your copy. That way you'll have it once you're ready to do your works cited page.
  • Take careful notes. Distinguish sentences/passages you're quoting directly with *big* quotation marks, or by color- coding them with a highlighter. Be sure to note who you're quoting. And when paraphrasing, highlight or mark those passages to distinguish them from your own ideas--which you can mark by writing or typing the word "ME" next to them.
  • Keep a research log.  On a separate sheet of paper or in a separate document, note the different databases/catalogs/search engines you use when doing research, as well as the combination of terms you use for each source. This will come in handy when you're trying to remember what database you found that perfect article in, and will also come to your defense if you're ever unjustly accused of plagiarism.
  • Don't toss your notes till the semester is over. You never know when you'll need to look back at something, or (worst case scenario) provide proof that you didn't plagiarize.

The Purdue OWL is an excellent resource for everything research-related, including avoiding plagiarism.  The chart below is a handy resource that can help you determine quickly whether or not you need to cite a piece of information.